China chides Medtronic over sovereignty of Taiwan

China's internet regulator has chided Medtronic for listing Taiwan as a country on its website. Medtronic was one of a clutch of foreign companies told to apologize for listing a region China sees as part of its territory as an independent country.

Taiwan has an independent, democratically elected president but its status is unclear. China refuses to have diplomatic relations with countries that recognize Taiwan. That has resulted in only a short list of small countries recognizing Taiwan as a nation. But China has had less success in getting people to stop thinking of Taiwan as a country and in eradicating it from websites and online forms.

Now, China is stepping up its policing of references to Taiwan online. 

Medtronic was scolded for listing “Republic of China (Taiwan)” on one of its websites, Reuters reported. Fashion brand Zara and airline Delta were rebuked for similar matters. Marriott suffered the most. The government ordered a weeklong suspension of the hotel chain’s website after it listed Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as separate countries in a questionnaire sent to customers. 

For Medtronic, the punishment was limited to an order to make a public apology. Medtronic quickly acceded to the demand.

“We sincerely apologize for causing misunderstanding among the public,” Medtronic wrote in a statement seen by Nikkei. “[Medtronic] completely understands the stance of the Chinese government on relevant sovereignty issues.”

A series of articles and editorials in local media followed the flurry of activity. Those pieces strongly criticized the companies for their actions and tasked them with taking more remedial and preventive steps. 

“They need to investigate how such a terrible mistake could have been made given the fact they have already been doing business in China for many years and should have known that such actions constitute a violation of China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. They also need to adopt necessary measures to prevent such mistakes from being made again,” China Daily editors wrote.